Rethinking the Age of Consent and the POCSO Act

Rethinking the Age of Consent and the POCSO Act

Rethinking the Age of Consent and the POCSO Act


The recent developments and judgments related to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, in India. Specifically, focusing on cases involving consensual sexual relationships between minors and the accused.


GS – 02 (Issues Related to Children) (Government Policies & Interventions)


  • (POCSO) Act
  • Child Abuse Prevention and Investigation Unit
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao

Mains Question

  • Discuss the recent judgments of various High Courts that have quashed FIRs and criminal proceedings under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and their impact on the age of consent and safeguarding vulnerable children. (250 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Defining Consent
  • The Burstiness of Cases: Towards a Solution
  • Role of Judiciary and Parliament

Defining Consent:

  • The recent judgments by different High Courts have sparked debates on the definition of consent under the POCSO Act. The Act defines a ‘child’ as any person below the age of 18 years and aims to safeguard children against penetrative sexual assault, regardless of their consent.
  • However, the Courts seem to have disregarded the age of consent and the mandatory legal presumption in favor of the prosecutrices. Even the significant age gaps between the victims and the accused have been overlooked.
  • Drawing parallels with other protective legislation, like the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, where intention need not be separately proved if the prohibited acts are committed based on the victim’s caste, the Courts should have treated children as a separate vulnerable category.
  • Consent should be irrelevant if the accused had knowledge of the victim being a child, thus upholding the spirit of POCSO.

The Burstiness of Cases: Towards a Solution

  • The pattern of judgments in ‘consensual sex’ cases raises pertinent questions. Should all such cases be quashed, and if so, what should be the bottom-line age of consent? This complex issue demands a thoughtful resolution.
  • Lowering the age of consent to 16, as suggested by some, needs thorough consideration. Can the IPC’s general provision under Section 90, which deals with consent for a child even below 12 years of age, be a viable approach?
  • Resolving this burstiness in the interpretation of consent requires a comprehensive analysis by the Bureau of Police Research and Development. By studying consensual sex cases across States, the government can make informed decisions on reducing the age of consent, while also allowing the judiciary some discretion in cases where the victim is of a lower age based on the child’s understanding of consequences. However, the paramount consideration must always be the ‘best interest of the child.’

Role of Judiciary and Parliament

  • While the High Courts have not declared any provision of the IPC or POCSO unconstitutional, the discrepancies in interpretations need to be urgently addressed. The Supreme Court’s intervention is crucial to reconcile the gap between the laid-down law as understood by investigating agencies and the diverse interpretations by different High Courts.
  • However, it is essential to strike a balance. Lowering the age of consent, though within Parliament’s purview, should be done carefully, considering societal implications. The Supreme Court’s guidance is vital in shaping this policy change.


The recent judgments by various High Courts have thrown the issue of consent under the POCSO Act into the spotlight. It is essential to strike a balance between protecting children from sexual offenses and ensuring a fair legal process. Reducing the age of consent requires thoughtful consideration and must be done in the best interest of the child. The judiciary and Parliament must collaborate to ensure a comprehensive and robust legal framework that addresses the complexities of this sensitive issue.